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By Withholding Funding from American Legacy Foundation Lorillard Shows Hypocrisy About Reducing Youth Smoking

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 27, 2003

Washington, D.C. — The Lorillard Tobacco Company has announced that it plans to put in escrow a payment it is scheduled to make by March 31 to the American Legacy Foundation under the 1998 state tobacco settlement. This follows a pending lawsuit Lorillard filed against Legacy last year. Lorillard's continuing attack on the American Legacy Foundation and its highly successful 'truth' youth anti-smoking advertising campaign exposes Lorillard's hypocrisy in claiming that it does not want kids to smoke. Lorillard says it doesn't want kids to smoke, but what the company really wants is to shut down an effective prevention campaign that is helping to reduce youth smoking. If anyone believed the rhetoric of Lorillard and the other tobacco companies that they have changed, Lorillard's latest effort to undermine the work of the American Legacy Foundation makes clear that nothing has changed.

As noted in a March 25 letter from the state attorneys general to Lorillard, Lorillard has no basis for withholding funds from Legacy. In the letter, Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell, chair of the tobacco committee of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), states, 'I am strongly of the view that the MSA [Master Settlement Agreement] does not permit Lorillard' to take its actions. The letter also states that 'Lorillard will very likely be promptly served by one or more Settling States with a notice of intent to initiate enforcement proceedings' if it does not make the required payment to Legacy.

Lorillard doesn't like Legacy's ads because they tell kids the truth about how the tobacco industry has targeted them and deceived them about the harm caused by tobacco products. Legacy's efforts stand in marked contrast to the ineffective 'youth anti-smoking' ads being run by Lorillard and other tobacco companies, which offer no reason not to smoke and portray smoking as an acceptable adult habit. The industry's ads are at best ineffective and at worse undermine the real anti-smoking ads being run by Legacy and states around the country. No industry ad campaign is less effective than Lorillard's 'Tobacco is whacko if you're a teen' campaign. Rather than withholding funding for Legacy, Lorillard should pull the plug on its own harmful campaign and cease its targeted marketing to African-Americans that has made its Newport brand the preferred cigarette brand among nearly 70 percent of African-American youth smokers.

Lorillard's actions to undermine real tobacco prevention provide another reason why reputable organizations should not partner with the company, even in the guise of its ineffective 'youth anti-smoking' program. Lorillard has been aggressively courting such partnerships, including recently with the ESPN X Games held in Aspen, Colorado. Lorillard's actions show that it is not serious about reducing youth smoking, and reputable organizations should not allow their good names, events and programs to be used by Lorillard in its efforts to push aside real prevention programs and avoid real change in its harmful practices. Lorillard should not be allowed anywhere close to America's kids.